Xbox One Is Still Stuck in Cable’s Orbit

Xbox Orbit
Daniel Doperalski

Microsoft’s new console can’t deliver without a little help from pay TV

The “one” in the name Xbox One is a little misleading when it comes to watching live TV through Microsoft’s new videogame console.

Though the device is being touted as an all-entertainment hub, accessing channels on it still requires a settop box from a pay-TV provider.

The HDMI cord still required to connect the two boxes is the compromise Microsoft had to make in order to take its baby step toward revolutionizing how consumers interact with content.

Through Microsoft’s OneGuide, the Xbox One cleanly and cleverly organizes series from broadcast and cable networks, as well as the streaming content provided via entertainment apps like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon and Machinima. Like the new Windows, the OneGuide is a piece of software that lays on top of another — in this case, the often frustratingly slow and confusing onscreen listings of TV shows offered by most pay-TV providers.

OneGuide is smart and it works. But what it doesn’t do also stands out: The Xbox One can’t access shows stored on a DVR, nor can it tell the other set-top box to record them.

That’s still coming, Microsoft engineers and its software partners say. But for now, the Xbox team wanted to eliminate one pesky issue: the need to change inputs on a remote control or TV set in order to switch from a game to a TV show. Microsoft’s Jose Pinero says that inconvenience is “one of the ultimate enemies of gamers.” And while the assessment may be a bit extreme, having to change inputs is a nuisance.

So Xbox One now enables a gamer to play Electronic Arts’ “Madden NFL” franchise while watching ABC’s “Monday Night Football” at the same time. It also lets a viewer switch from a game to a show in an instant by saying, for instance, “Xbox, Watch NBC” (music to that network’s ears).

That should have a ratings-obsessed Hollywood cheering on the sidelines — as well as marketers, who have long lost the attention of the lucrative male market to games.

For those who expected something more, Microsoft never promised to replace the common set-top box. That was a hopeful notion dreamt up by others. But it’s not a crazy idea, either — one that the pay-TV community should strongly consider as it continues to lose subscribers and wonder what it’s doing wrong.

What that community has done right is to begrudgingly allow Xbox One to repackage its programs for its paying customers in a better way. Now the company needs to take the next step and hand over the job of building hardware to Microsoft as well.

Pay-TV providers have long lamented having to build boxes that wind up becoming expensive doorstops within a year or two, costing companies a lot of money.

But they’re also worried they might lose more subscribers to digital platforms. Here’s a reminder for them: They already are, especially younger consumers looking to binge-watch old seasons of “Breaking Bad.”

The industry needs to realize that Microsoft is making an effort to play nice the way rival Sony isn’t. In fact, Sony is also considering ways to create a competitor to cable and satellite services by developing its own Internet-delivered TV service.

While PS4 has targeted the hardcore gamer from the start, Microsoft has sought to make Xbox One appeal to everyone from the start.

Xbox One already is changing the game, with its ability to let players record, edit and share their experiences and even broadcast live gameplay through the console.

Now it’s pay-TV’s turn to innovate and cut its own cord. As long as the other black box in the living room is around, the revolution will remain an evolution, and Xbox One — at least when it comes to watching live TV — will be box No. 2.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 17

Leave a Reply


Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. anthony says:

    Shot want work without cable humbug

  2. If Xbox cannot use my cable box’s internal memory and I loose my recordings or worse use my valuable Xbox one’s limited internal memory then I am just going to use the extra port for my Xbox 360.

  3. Alsita says:

    Dude…Just get an XBOX One free here!

    #freexboxone #xboxone #ps4 #battlefield4 #callofdutyghost #xbox

  4. ed says:

    It doesn’t matter how many people try to leave cable TV for digital delivery. The cable companies own the infrastructure for delivery. Pay-for-usage is coming soon. When the cable providers lose enough customers, you’ll be paying for that Netflix streaming. Like unlimited cellphone data, it may be free today, but it will not be in the future.

  5. tom says:

    I can access my DVR on my xbox one. I just have to use my cable remote. It still works you just can’t control it via kinect or controller which is perfectly fine. No need to change inputs but you still need your cable remote.

  6. What an ill informed article. The Xbox only allows 30 seconds of recording whereas the PS4 allows 15 minutes.

    The Xbox One currently DOES NOT ALLOW BROADCASTING of live game play whereas the PS4 does via Twitch and Ustream. Xbox One users can watch PS4 users but they themselves cannot broadcast. In fact people were using the Sony Playroom to live broadcast a Cancer fundraiser.

    The future of gaming is Gaikai, which is owned by Sony and will premiere in North America on the PS4 in 2014. The very weakness of the Xbox is not only it’s outdated hardware – specifically the use of DDR3 for the memory which by default is used for video rendering. Yet no manufacturer of video cards has utulized DDR3 for years do to it’s slow speeds.

    The article has a ton of inaccuracies. Two were mentioned above. The next time someone from a Hollywood publication decides to write a gaming article they should hire an individual with at least a modicum of knowledge concerning the technical capabilities of said console. Otherwise the article comes off as fanboyism designed as a Microsoft promotion piece to decieve the idiot uninitiated sheep masses.

    • Jack B says:

      Not only did you get the length of time the Xbox One can record, you failed to mention that the Xbox One will have Twitch as well, it’s just been delayed. You also failed to mention the PS4 only sends your recordings to Facebook, where the Xbox One allows you to use Skydrive and then edit and take those recordings wherever you want like YouTube for instance. Facebook is not where people want to upload gaming videos.

      Lastly, and most comical is your contention, that Gaikai is the future? You obviously don’t know what it is, because Sony has delayed it because of problems and Microsoft is doing the same thing, but they both have realized “streaming” games is very challenging and the latency won’t allow anything like an FPS or Sports games to work well, because lag will kill the experience.

      And you have the nerve to rip the author of this article like you’re some kind of industry expert.

      Go sit in the corner.

  7. Josh says:

    I still don’t understand why I would want to watch TV and play a game at the same time. I guess I’m too old for this s**t.

    • ed says:

      Totally agree. How does one play Madden Football & watch a real game? You don’t.

    • tom says:

      Lol. Xbox can record for 5 min. Also microsoft and twitch decided to postpone livestreaming so it will be 100% ready with no issues. The only fanboy here is you. Now go sit in the corner.

      • Oooh a whole 5 minutes. Still a third of the PS4 and the X1 requires you to actively start the recording versus the PS4 which is always recording. And the X1 has a browser that is 5 times slower than the PS4 browser. MS didn’t postpone anything. It wasn’t ready. You can’t postpone something that isn’t ready. The Xbox One is a titanic…right after the iceberg. The EU launch of the PS4 shows what a dim future MS has ahead. It is losing money and leaking cash hand over fist. There is every likelihhod the division will be sold.

    • Me neither. There’s no way I can appreciate a game properly when I’ve got something else distracting me; I don’t even want to listen to my own music in most games (though it’s OK for certain genres like racers).

      A dark room with surround sound and phones and computers set to silent is the only way to properly appreciate any decent videogame.

  8. Manually input switching nuisance? It’s not necessary to manually change inputs even on the PS3 for the most part. HDMI-CEC can be used to automatically switch to the PS3 input when the console is switched on, and when the console is shut down, it reverts back to the previous input. I believe the PS4 also does this.

    Just make sure it’s enable on both the TV and the console and you’re good to go.

  9. Chris says:

    “Xbox One already is changing the game, with its ability to let players record, edit and share their experiences and even broadcast live gameplay through the console.”

    You can do all of this on the PS4, as well. People have been streaming on Twitch and sharing gameplay on Facebook since day 1.

    Sony has also built a much more powerful box with a better GPU and faster memory.

    Microsoft has constantly promoted anti-consumer policies, having to backpedal repeatedly.

    The only thing the Xbox One does better is serve as a cable guide, in fact, the pass-thru HDMI messes with your cable image, making it less than pristine. For people that actually care about the picture, this is a deal breaker.

  10. Jed Merrill says:

    As someone who owns both, the Xbox One is a FAR superior experience out of the box than the PS4.

    My feeling is Sony played it safe with the PS4 and failed to innovate. Microsoft took a chance and struck gold. Very happy with my XB1. My only complaint is no backwards compatibility, a fault in both consoles. Only Nintendo’s Wii U got that feature right.

    • ed says:

      If you consider gimmicky TV “innovation” then sure. If you want a game machine, then no.

      • PlayboX lover says:

        I own both as well and must say I’m enjoying both tremendously but it seems strange how I came go the exact opposite conclusion to Jed.

More Biz News from Variety